Reading Recommendations -- Fantasy as a Summer Escape

In the dog days of summer, escape is on everyone's minds. Are you eagerly awaiting that vacation in August, or desperately trying to think of things to do to forget that there are no vacations on the horizon? Are you just trying to beat the intense city heat in whatever way you can? Whatever it is that you are trying to escape from or take your mind of off, these books are here to help.

Fantasy is not for everyone, but it is also so much more than you might imagine. Its rep has gotten significantly better over the years with Harry Potter, The Lord of The Rings and Game of Thrones making their way into popular culture. Not to knock those books or their screen adaptations, but if that is all you know about fantasy (and you dig it) this list is perfect for you. And since there is just so much fantasy in the world, this list is good for all you die hards out there too. So go buy a new book at your local bookstore and begin your escape today!

The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
A classic. The world Ms. Le Guin creates is nothing short of perfect. This book, and the subsequent books of the series, are forever in my top 10 best books of all time. (I had to cheat long ago and count series as one cuz there are so many amazing books in the world!)

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
A rare stand-alone in a world dominated by series, this novel taps into the mysteries of London and what it really means to experience and be a part of life. London below is both terrifying and captivating.

Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country by Rosalind Miles
A list of must-read fantasy novels is not complete without at least one Arthurian legend retelling. This is the first book in a series of three which approaches this classic topic from the perspective of Guenevere, casting her as the heroine pitted against an evil Morgan Le Fay.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Talking polar bears, witches, gypsies, a journey to the icy north, parallel universes and animal companion "deamons", a physical manifestation of a persons inner being. Intrigued yet? This is just the beginning of a complex and compelling series. Don't bother watching the movie adaptation though.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherine M. Valente
Complex and quirky, each page of this novel is a riot of words and descriptions. Valente adds a darkness to her fantasy writing that is really genuine and beautiful. She takes "the tropes of fairy takes and quests and folklore and portal fantasy and old school children's books" and adds "complexity" and "emotional crunchiness"

The Witch's Boy by Kelly Barnhill
A lovely and lyrical novel about the importance of words and friendship. Barnhill weaves classic fairytale elements with excellent writing and a few good ole twists. It is one of those beautiful novels that just stays with you!

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
Another must have on any great fantasy book list would have to be a tale about dragons. Anne McCaffrey is the dragon tale queen. Telepathic dragons, time travel, love and a strong female protagonist...what more can you ask for really?!

Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea
Set in the not so idyllic town of Chelsea, Mass. this book about a "radical Polish mermaid" will give you a new appreciation for pigeons. It is grimy and grungy and beautiful!


**If you are in a bookstore and cannot find one of these titles, take yourself on over to the kids section and see if it is there. Some of the titles were originally written for kids, but that is one of the beauties of fantasy, and books in general. If the writing is good and the story is compelling who cares if the protagonist is 16 or 60. I strongly advocate not reading for or to your age so I do not make distinctions between intended age ranges for books.